cat cake

Dear Lyndsay,

Happy book birthday and congratulations on your first cookbook! I wish I was in Vancouver celebrating with you at Collage Collage, but I’m happy to be celebrating with you online. Coco Cake Land is just as cute as your cakes! I love how the book looks and all of the pretty cake inspirations inside.

Coco Cake Land

Ever since my colleague, Daniel, told me about your book, I have been waiting to get my hands on it (and I have Claire in publicity to thank for it). I love the cat cake and the bunny cake and the cacti cake and the fox and the lamb … basically all of them. And those pretty party cakes are what I can work towards. Still can’t do a pretty side drip. Help!

Coco Cake Land

I had sent a photo of the cake to my mom who asked why wasn’t I sharing it with her. I got kind of the same response when I texted it to my best friend. Sorry, this was for two kids who had been asking for cake in the past two weekends!

Coco Cake Land

I think my favourite part of making the cake is putting the ears on. And then the eyes and nose. Because it’s already so freaking cute at that stage.

Coco Cake Land

It was such a blast from the past since I hadn’t worked with fondant in so long. It was stickier than I remembered. Or perhaps it was the new brand of fondant I was trying out. They came in small tubs which was perfect for this project.

Coco Cake Land

And I got to do something new! I have never piped on fondant before. I always tried to avoid adding too much moisture as the fondant would get melt-y, but it didn’t! I adore the added touch of frosting fur on the ears.

Coco Cake Land

I still can’t get over how cute this is, it’s probably the cutest cake I’ve ever made. I made your one bowl dark chocolate cake (page 147) and filled it with the peanut butter frosting (page 156) before piping your simple vanilla buttercream (page 149). Oh my gosh. The piping really took a toll on my hands and arms. All that squeezing. I should have picked up a larger multi-opening decorating tip.

Coco Cake Land

I know I said the cake was too cute to eat. But we just had to. The chocolate cake was really decadent and moist. I loved the peanut butter frosting too, the recipe I normally use requires me to buy cream cheese, so I’m glad that I can do without it and just use your recipe now.

Coco Cake Land

Can I say it? This cake was purrfect.

Sincerely,
Syl

shakshouka

Dear Laura,

Oh geez, I thought I had published this letter. How many months has it been now? We’re in the sweltering heat of the long weekend when I made this shakshouka after that winter storm at your place. And now, you’re making it again with homemade bread and fresh herbs from your garden for brunch this weekend. Regardless, thank you for introducing my newbie taste-buds to this delicious dish.

Shakshouka (North African-Style)
Recipe from Serious Eats
Makes enough to serve 4-6.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large red pepper, thinly sliced
1 small jalapeño, thinly sliced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 ½ tablespoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
Salt and pepper
Large handful minced cilantro, parsley, or a mix
4-6 eggs (depends on how many eggs each person wants)
Feta cheese (crumbled) and crusty bread (toasted), for serving

  1. Choose your vessel, we’ve made it in both a cast iron skillet and a straight-side sauté pan. Heat the olive oil until it’s shimmering. Then add the onion, red pepper, and chili and cook until they’re browned and starting to char.
  2. Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, and tomatoes. Reduce the heat and let the dish simmer for about 10 minutes. Seriously, if you can make pasta sauce, you can make this sauce.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add in half the cilantro or parsley.
  4. Egg time! Using a large spoon and make little wells in the sauce. Break an egg into the well and cover the edges with a little bit of sauce so that it’s partially submerged. Repeat with the rest of the eggs, work around the perimeter of the pan. Simmer until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks are still runny.
  5. Take it off the heat to serve and garnish with the remaining cilantro, parsley, and feta cheese.

Shakshuka

Love how easy and hearty this is!

Sincerely,
Syl

matcha dusted fudge brownies

Dear Sam,

Huzzah! It feels like Easter was many moons ago as I am very late in writing this post. I was like, who could I write this to? and you popped into my mind because you finally gave in and had chocolate just because I made these. To that, I am humbled and I also commend you on going 39 days without chocolate. That’s not an easy task. Even just today, I was poking around my kitchen looking for something chocolate to nibble on. I eventually gave in and opened my second box of Daim cake. And just to be clear, I would have made them again after Easter so you could have some!

These brownies are so addictive, but it was seeing a photo of the glossy and crinkly top that drew me into the recipe in the first place. Stella Parks is a dessert genius. If she’s reading this, I would love to know how to swirl the matcha onto the top (and just the top) of the brownie. Would it still achieve that glossy film?

Glossy Fudge Brownies
Recipe adapted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts
Makes enough to fill a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan

1 cup all-purpose flour
1⅓ cup cocoa powder
3 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for dark chocolate bars, chopped)
2¼ cup white suguar
¼ cup brown sugar
1¾ teaspoons salt
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extra
(The original recipe also calls for instant espresso powder here, but it’s optional, and I didn’t have any.)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking pan with foil so that the bottom and sides are covered.
  2. In a pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. I dabbed a little of the melted butter with a brush to grease the foil in the pan. Increase the heat to medium and let the butter simmer until the butter is golden yellow and silent (there’s a lot of hissing and popping during the process).
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together.
  5. Using a stand mixer, whisk the white sugar, brown sugar, salt, eggs, and vanilla extract. Run it on medium-high until the mixture is thick and fluffy (about 8 minutes).
  6. Reduce the stand mixer speed to low and pour in the warm chocolate-butter mixture. Once it’s combined and you don’t see anymore streaks, add in the sifted flour and cocoa powder. Mix on low until the batter comes together. Be careful not to over mix here. Use a spatula to help fold if you think the stand mixer might be too heavy handed.
  7. Pour the batter in the pan and bake for about 25 minutes. The brownies should have a glossy film and still be soft to the touch.
  8. Here’s the hard part, wait. Let it sit and cool. It’ll be too gooey to slice if you don’t wait.
  9. Gently tug and lift the foil out of the pan. Cut the brownie into squares (or triangles). Store in an airtight container with wax paper between each layer. It’ll last for a week in room temperature. I also froze some to be mixed in with ice cream sundaes in the future.

Chocolate Brownies

Stirring the melted butter and chocolate together.

Chocolate Brownies

Sifting the flour and cocoa powder!

Chocolate Brownies

Pour that luxurious batter into the baking pan.

05_Brownies.jpg

Finally, it’s cool and ready to be sliced.

Chocolate Brownies

Oh my gosh, look at the center where it’s nice and dark. This is one moist and delicious brownie.

Liza, if you’re reading this, it’s time to look away.

Chocolate Brownies

Dusted some matcha powder on the top of my brownie square.

Chocolate Brownies

Yaasss! So ready to dig in.

Chocolate Brownies

The first bite, get in my belly!

Chocolate Brownies

Time for a second bite.

Sincerely,
Syl

saffron, orange, and honey madeleines

Dear Laura,

It was so good to catch up last night! You picked a great day to come over, I’m sorry I stuffed you with pasta and madeleines and we didn’t have room for some waffles and ice cream. We’ll have to take a snow-check for those.

Howard’s parents gave me the little box of saffron – I remember Howard bringing it home and saying “my parents said you would know.” Because that felt like a challenge, I looked at the little clear box of spices and proudly said, “oh, saffron.” Winner!

I’ve never used saffron before and wasn’t even sure if we’ve ever tasted it out at restaurants, so I don’t know what the flavour profile is, it does smell really strong. I liked how you described it as “plastic-y.” I had these madeleine recipes bookmarked for a long time now, ever since I saw that I could finally use the saffron. The day before my parents gave me some oranges and I had bought pistachios from Costco, so there really was no excuse to not make these.

Saffron, Orange, and Honey Madeleines
Recipe from Sweet: Desserts from London’s Ottolenghi
Makes about 20-22 large madeleines

90 grams unsalted butter, plus more, melted, for brushing
2 teaspoons plus 3 tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon saffron threads (optional)
¼ vanilla bean
2 large eggs
⅓ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2½ tablespoons shelled pistachio kernels

The recipe instructions are also online at Bon Appétit. So I’ll go over this in visuals:

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

Combine the butter, saffron threads, and honey in a saucepan.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

Cook on low heat until the butter and honey melt together. Give it a swirl or two. Then set it aside to cool to room temperature.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

Using a food processor this time, add in the eggs, sugar, orange zest, and vanilla seeds. Pulse until combined. Then add in the dry ingredients of flour, baking powder, and salt.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

Once combined, transfer it to a bowl or piping bag. Let the batter chill in the fridge for an hour.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

Melt some butter and brush it on the madeleine pans. Then dust it with flour.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

If you saved the batter in a bowl, you can use a spoon to scoop dollops into the pan’s mold. Or you can snip off the tip of the piping bag and start squeezing the batter into the pan.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

The oven temperature in the cookbook asked for 400°F for 10 minutes. However, when I was on Facebook, it was like the algorithms knew I was using the Sweet cookbook. I found out after that it was an error. It should be 375°F for 10 minutes! That’s why my madeleines were such a dark brown on the bottom!! Although Howard really enjoyed that extra crunch.

When they’re done baking, gently nudge the cakes out of the mold and transfer to a cooling rack. Then brush honey on top for that shiny glaze.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

The honey also helps the crushed pistachios stick to them.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

And there you have it! I might have ground the pistachio a bit too much into a crumble compared to the photo in the cookbook. But it’s still delicious. There’s only four left in my kitchen this morning.

Saffron Orange Honey Madeleines

I hope to see you soon and hear more about your house renovations. You know I love hearing about food, homes, and travel!

Sincerely,
Syl

chocolate rice krispie square totoros

Hey Steph and Lyndsay,

It’s one of my favourite weeks, even more than shark week, it’s finally #totoroweek! The weeks leading up to it, I’m always on the look out for round or circular food types that can be transformed in Totoro. But then I thought square Totoro is cute too! Let’s show him some love.

I recently made homemade marshmallows and since then I started craving Rice Krispie squares. This time, I tried a different marshmallow recipe and went straight to Stella Parks’ BraveTart cookbook. She offers quite a few variations, including an apple pie flavour, brown butter, coconut, malted milk, and peanut butter honey. I went with chocolate since it would provide the best contrast to the white royal icing.

Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares
Recipe adapted from BraveTart
Makes enough to fill an 8 x 12 x 2 inch baking pan

11 cups Rice Krispie cereal
⅓ cup cocoa powder
2 envelopes unflavoured gelatin powder
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup water
1 cup golden corn syrup
2¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter

  1. In a large bowl, fold the cocoa powder with the cereal until it’s evenly coated.
  2. Add Melt the butter and grease the baking pan. Set aside the extra butter.
  3. Mix the gelatin, ¼ cup water, and vanilla extract in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a medium pot, combine the ½ cup water, corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Set over medium heat and stir until the mixture bubbles (about 8 minutes). I clipped on a candy thermometer, but I couldn’t get the mixture to reach 250°F in after 6 minutes. Might be time for me to get a digital thermometer. Either way, onward!
  5. Pour the hot syrup into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Let it cool for a bit and then add the gelatin from the small bowl. Using a whisk attachment, start on low speed and then increase to medium-high.
  6. The syrup will thicken and turn white and increase in volume. Reduce the speed to low and add in the remaining melted butter. Give it one last good mix on medium-high.
  7. Scrape the gooey marshmallow batter over the cocoa-powdered cereal and fold to coat. Transfer the mixture into the greased pan and gently press down to create an even and smooth surface.
  8. Cover it in foil and let it set in the fridge for at least two hours.

 

Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares

After the Rice Krispie is set, use a spatula to help pop the treats out of the pan and cut them into squares.

Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares

Use a piping bag with a small round tip and fill it with royal icing. Pipe an arch about half the size of the square and fill it in.

Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares

Pipe two medium circles for the eyes and push milk chocolate crispearls in for Totoro’s pupils. Pipe a small dot for the nose and v-shapes for the whiskers.

Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares

This is the part where your patience gets tested. Using brown jimmies to set over the royal icing belly. I used the tip of a knife to help shift some into place.

Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares

Finally, some lollipop sticks to make these treats easy to hold and eat. I couldn’t bear to bite into Totoro, so I had Howard do the honours while I ate the non-decorated ones. These chocolate Rice Krispie squares taste really good (and are super addictive).

Sincerely,
Syl